The first Halloween related even to happen this year was my mini trip to Osaka. I went down with a friend and we stayed for two nights in what appeared to be a love hotel. She apparently didn’t know it was when she booked it, and it was an interesting experience to say the least. The plus side was that it was large, comfortable, and quite reasonably priced. This I had money for shopping, eating, and so on. We decided to use the Kodama Puratto Economy Plan, rather than taking the cheaper but slower Kintetsu or JR. It was around 4000yen each way; or it would have been, had there been enough free seats. Unfortunately the regular reserved seats on the Kodama going from Nagoya to Osaka on that particular day at that particular time (as well as other times that day, we checked) were completely sold out! This left us with no option but to book Green Car seats (first class). While this sounds quite fancy, and fun to tell people; in actually it translates to just a bit more leg room, with fractionally more comfortable seats.
We arrived in Osaka at around 10am, checked into our hotel, and ventured out into the city to locate some Okonomiyaki. It took slightly longer than anticipated to get where we wanted to go, so on the way we stopped by 551 (go-go-ichi), a famous nikuman chain in Osaka, and chowed down on some delicious pork buns. We eventually did make it to a great little restaurant that was hidden down some steps. We were able to watch them cook up our food before they brought it over to rest on the sizzling hot table between us. Fortunately the portion sizes were relatively small (at least compared with Hiroshimayaki) so we were able to finish our meals quite easily and comfortably, before heading to Shinsaibashi to do a spot of shopping and meet up with some people for a drink in an Irish bar. After some enjoyable socialising with the JETs, we made our way back to our hotel to rest up before our early start the next day.
It was decided that we would get up ridiculously early so we could get in to USJ as soon as it opened, and therefore get in as many rides as possible, given the inevitably long lines we would be facing. Unfortunately, despite our efforts, we still got stuck at the back of the world’s longest line. My choice for our first ride was Spiderman. It had been recently revamped so it was bound to have a lengthy wait time (the later in the day the longer it would probably be). I didn’t envision just how long that wait was going to be, or how much of a disappointment we would be in for.
We stood in line for approximately 3 hours. We were literally almost at the front of the line when we noticed that people had started sitting down. I thought perhaps because this was the last room before the ride (they hide the line in various rooms so you can’t see just how long a wait you have ahead of you) and considering how long everyone had been waiting, that maybe it was just for comfort. But who was I kidding. The announcement that we had previously either not heard or just ignored because we couldn’t understand it, was repeated. This time I caught ‘please wait’ and not much else. After that we started paying a bit more attention to our surroundings, and noticed that people were definitely getting quite restless. At that point we were still desperately clinging to the hope that it was just a simple delay and that things would be back on track momentarily. Unfortunately for us, and the hundreds of other people in the line, an announcement eventually went over that the ride would be shut down and we would shortly be escorted out of the line. Not that we understood all that. Luckily (in a situation quite lacking in the luck department) we happened to be standing in line next to a high school English teacher, who not only was able to translate for us, but made for a pleasant conversationalist with which to practice my abysmal Japanese. One other positive thing came from the situation: the distribution of fast passes to all us poor tired souls. We just got one each (I maintain it should have been two, given the length of time we had been waiting) but we were finally free of the damn Spiderman line. Now because we had left our hotel soooo very early I had skipped breakfast. This was not a good idea, but I wasn’t to know how long we would be in that pointless line. So, because of that, by the time we escaped the line that never ends, it was LUNCH TIME! So we hot-footed it to my favourite USJ restaurant: Finnegan’s, for some Sheppard’s Pie! Also I had a delicious Halloween themed drink which contained an eyeball and was truly amazing. It was some kind of ginger and berry flavoured masterpiece and I should have bought 5 of them. Instead I bought one, and it went quite nicely with my delectable pie.
By the time we had lined up for the restaurant, eaten all the pie, and decided which would be our ACTUAL first ride, it was around 3pm. This was quite a disappointing revelation considering our crack-of-dawn departure. But finally we made it onto a ride; and rather quickly, too (once we had approached the ride line that is), with the help of our fast pass. The ride I chose was SPACE FANTASY. It was just as amazing as I remembered from my previous visit to USJ. Space Fantasy is basically an indoor rollercoaster spinning wondrous awesome adventure ride full of amazingness and space and stuff. It’s bright. And shiiiinnyy. To the EXTREME! And it is easily my favourite ride in the universe. USJ is worth a visit just for Space Fantasy. Did you know that I like Space Fantasy? SSSSPAAAAACE FANNNNTTASSSSYYYYYYY!!!
After the amazingness that is my favourite ride ever, and with some shopping in between, we managed to squeeze in two more rides (Jurassic Park and Back to the Future) before the real fun, and the main reason for coming, began: HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHT!! If you’ve never been to Universal Studios before, then I highly recommend visiting during the Halloween season. It lasts for approximately two months, from the middle of September, to the middle of November (at which point the pumpkins go into storage and out comes the giant Christmas tree). Even if you have been before (at a different time of year), a Halloween season visit is a must. In fact, I fully intend to go back again next year. There are many special attractions during this time of year, but the thing I was most excited (and terrified) to see, and what really makes it worth it: ZOMBIES!!!
It began at 6pm (complete with a sudden change of music, and therefore atmosphere) with two or three sick looking individuals climbing out of some kind of beat up old vehicle… by the end of the night there were around a thousand zombies spread across the park, sometimes just stumbling along, but often chasing unsuspecting victims through the night. Later on we found out that there was a special necklace you could buy that encouraged attacks! This certainly explained the multiple occasions we were witness to quite violent assaults, during which the chosen victim was thrown to the ground and then feasted upon by up to a dozen hungry zombies.
We spent the hours from 6-9pm just soaking up the thrilling atmosphere and every so often being scared half to death by an unexpected wave of the undead. Their commitment to their roles was such that it really drew you in to the idea of an ever dwindling population of the living. The make-up, along with their stumbling gait and unearthly vocalisations had you convinced that they really were afflicted with some terrible disease; all it would take was one bite, and you too would join their ranks.
The scariest of all the zombies were probably those running around with chainsaws. Now while the rational part of my brain understands that they weren’t going to hurt us; and the sounds coming from them didn’t mean there were actual blades on these deadly weapons; that didn’t mean that I didn’t run screaming for my life along with everyone else when one darted out from behind a group of terrified teenagers. That was another thing that made the paranoia seep in even further: the constant wailing of petrified school girls. If everyone around you is scared stiff, it can be quite a challenge to remain calm. But really, who wants to retain their composure when frightfully flitting about in fear is half the fun?!
All I can say is: GO GO GO!! You will definitely not regret it. (Unless you don’t like zombies… in which case, why are you reading this?)